The Port of Montreal is continuously reinventing itself and investing in its infrastructure to handle growth, improve fluidity and meet the logistics challenges of today’s marine industry.

As part of its development strategy geared to innovation and the use of visionary technologies, the port is looking at blockchain-enabled technology to streamline shipping through its facilities. It has joined TradeLens, a digital shipping platform developed by Maersk, whose vessels call in Montreal, and IBM.

Other Port of Montreal carriers that have joined the initiative are CMA CGM, MSC and Hapag-Lloyd. Hamburg Süd, which is part of Maersk, also is a member.

Exclusively dedicated to freight transport, TradeLens allows members to securely share major transactions through real-time access to shipping data and shipping documents. Its aim is to enable better control of delivery and operation schedules, provide easier access to various clearance and billing documents, and bring greater fluidity, efficiency and transparency to international shipping.

Montreal is unique in North America in that it is a destination port where container ships are completely unloaded and then reloaded again. Each vessel call involves close coordination with landside transportation services. In fact, the Montreal Port Authority (MPA) operates its own railway network on port territory and relies on accurate, timely upstream information to ensure fluid rail operations. The port is hoping that TradeLens will allow it to enhance and improve its business intelligence and short-term forecasting for better landside resource planning.

“We applaud our partner Maersk for its vision and international leadership,” said MPA President and CEO Sylvie Vachon. “We are convinced that joint work on a global scale is part of the key solutions to achieve a better flow of information and goods for the benefit of clients and partners. TradeLens is fully aligned with our objectives and business strategy centred on innovation and efficient shipping.”

Elsewhere on the technology front, two years after inaugurating its mobile Trucking PORTal, the MPA has recently updated its application.

The app, developed for the 2,500 trucks that access the Port of Montreal every day to load or unload goods, provides real-time information on transaction times for each terminal. Through a data capture system that measures truck travel times throughout port territory, the Trucking PORTal app allows drivers and dispatchers to better plan trips to terminals, thereby reducing congestion and lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

With the update, users can receive real-time notifications on traffic conditions and information on which roads are accessible, operational issues and constraints, and train passages. They can create a user profile to customize these notifications, receive them via an alert system without having to consult the PORTal, view the transit history and configure content according to their needs. These new features optimize the use of the app, improve truck transit times at the port and further reduce GHG emissions.

A new predictive model of the application, whose aim is to gain even greater efficiency, is in development.

Meanwhile, the Port of Montreal has partnered with the Centre for Technological Entrepreneurship (Centech) and École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) to create a port logistics innovation accelerator, the first of its kind in North America. Four innovation themes focused on port logistics challenges are guiding the unit’s work: supply chain visibility and freight mobility; cybersecurity; process improvement and agility; and supply chain decarbonization.

“This initiative puts the port at the forefront of the marine sector’s movement towards a future where emerging technologies, efficiency and sustainable development go hand in hand,” Ms. Vachon said.

Established in the new business premises of Centech, in the former Montreal Planetarium in the core of Montreal’s innovation district, this innovation unit offers a meeting space for experts from the Port of Montreal and technology start-ups, alongside PhD students from several universities.

One of the projects underway is an augmented reality program, through a partnership with PreVu3D and ARA Robotics, aimed at three-dimensional modelling of port locations and facilities. When complete, this tool will help improve infrastructure planning and optimize space, and provide port facility tours in virtual reality.

Other Port of Montreal partners will be invited to join the port innovation accelerator.

$37-Million Project To Enhance Fluidity

In August, the MPA and the federal government announced that they are investing in a $37-million project to enhance fluidity through the Port of Montreal. Through the National Trade Corridors Fund, the Government of Canada is allocating $18.5 million to the MPA for the project, which will increase transport efficiency, capacity and security by reducing container movement wait times and bottlenecks at the port. The MPA also is investing $18.5 million in the project.

There are four components to the project:

  • Construction of a railway bridge at the exit of the truck gate at De Boucherville St., which will eliminate traffic conflicts between trains and trucks.
  • Development of an Intelligent Transport System for port trucking in collaboration with the City of Montreal, which will allow for a better understanding of the origins and destinations of trucks beyond port territory.
  • Deployment of a series of variable message signs on port territory that will provide real-time information to truck drivers.
  • Development of solutions with port partners to modulate truck traffic at entry points based on actual activity on the terminals, thereby optimizing their service offering.

“This project will help us provide exporters and importers with ever more smooth and efficient service, and that will keep improving our competitive position in international trade,” Ms. Vachon said.

“Our government is investing in the Port of Montreal’s physical and digital infrastructure to stimulate economic growth, create quality middle-class jobs, and ensure that Canada’s transportation networks remain competitive and efficient, said federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau. “The investment at the port will also help reduce congestion and truck traffic in and around its various terminals.”

Terminal Hours Extended

Meanwhile, to support the sustained growth in the port’s import and export volumes, strengthen supply chain performance and improve fluidity and operations, weekday operating hours have been synchronized and extended at the Port of Montreal’s container terminals operated by Montreal Gateway Terminals Partnership and Termont Montreal. The terminals now open at 6 a.m. and close at 11 p.m., providing nine more hours of truck access per day Monday through Friday.

The move comes on the heels of a collaborative effort among port partners and as part of a pilot project initiated by CargoM’s (The Logistics and Transportation Metropolitan Cluster of Montreal) Innovation and Fluidity working group.

“The pilot project showed the strength of collaboration by CargoM’s partners and our ability to successfully carry out structuring projects for the industry that generate development and economic growth for Greater Montreal,” said Mathieu Charbonneau, Executive Director of CargoM.

“The pilot project to extend the operating hours at the terminals had a beneficial effect on the trucking industry. This allows more flexibility for carriers, which improves fluidity at the Port of Montreal as well as transit times,” said Marc Cadieux, President and CEO of the Quebec Trucking Association.

With the extended hours, stakeholders say they have seen an improvement in fluidity, with faster gate access during peak hours leading to quicker turnaround times and better use of assets across the board.

On the rail side, the port will undertake a $50-million project to increase rail freight capacity and improve fluidity. The project involves the laying of six kilometres of track, complementary work to develop the port’s internal rail network and relocation of the port road.

The project will allow the port to pre-assemble longer trains on its railway network and move containers more quickly from container terminals to its rail interchange zone, which is connected to the networks of Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways. The federal and provincial governments have granted financial support toward the project of $18.4 million under the National Trade Corridors Fund and $18.3 million under the Quebec Maritime Strategy, respectively.